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New engine doesn’t end McLaren F1 team’s woes in Formula One preseason

McLaren F1 team hoped to put an end to three years of misery using Honda-made engines by ditching the Japanese motors and partnering with Renault this Formula One season.

other sports Updated: Mar 12, 2018 23:43 IST
Associated press
Associated press
Associated Press, Barcelona
Formula One,F1,McLaren F1 team
McLaren F1 teams Fernando Alonso in action during the Formula One preseason testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Montmelo, Spain on March 9.(REUTERS)

New engine. Same dismal result.

McLaren, a proud Formula One team, hoped to put an end to three years of misery using Honda-made motors by ditching the Japanese engines and partnering with Renault.

The move, however, has been anything but trouble-free.

McLaren continued to struggle despite the change to Renault engines during two weeks of preseason testing in Spain, which ended on Friday.

Technical mishaps limited McLaren to the fewest laps of the 10 teams running at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. McLaren logged 599 total laps over eight days. Defending champion Mercedes led with 1,039.

Toro Rosso, meanwhile, seemed to be adapting well after switching from Renault to Honda motors, making it increasingly clear that McLaren’s woes were not all caused by its old engine. Toro Rosso completed the third-most laps with 822.

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier acknowledged the preseason hadn’t given the team’s fans a reason to believe in a rebound.

He couldn’t even guarantee McLaren will put a race-ready car on the track for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 25.

“One-hundred percent sure? No. Because we have not run as much as we wanted. So there will be a higher risk of failure,” Boullier said during the final testing session on Friday.

Twice this week Fernando Alonso lost valuable practice time when his car ground to a halt due to oil leaks, forcing engineers to replace the power unit both times.

Those car failures came after the former world champion suffered an ominous start to the preseason two weeks ago when a wheel popped off his McLaren and sent him into the gravel.

Also, on Tuesday, teammate Stoffel Vandoorne twice had his runs interrupted by technical hiccups.

Alonso did post the second-fastest time on Friday, but that will mean very little come race day if his car is not reliable.

“So far we have minor issues, but that is because we didn’t do a good enough job to prepare the car,” Boullier said.

McLaren, based in Woking, England, has eight constructor championships and 12 driver titles to its name. But its last driver title was in 2008 and its last grand prix victory in 2012. It has been four years since one of its drivers reached a podium.

Last year, Alonso and Vandoorne managed a meager 30 combined points with their best result being sixth by Alonso in Hungary. They failed to finish 13 races and didn’t start two more.

“The last three years was a difficult context. We are now trying to get McLaren back to where it should be,” Bouiller said. “You can’t do it in one day and maybe there are a few hitches, but we have not lost our ability to design fast cars and I hope you will see it on the track soon.”

Boullier said the goal for this year was to get the team to compete with the middle of the pack.

That means McLaren is still far, far away from joining Ferrari and Red Bull in their quest to topple Mercedes.

First Published: Mar 12, 2018 20:27 IST